Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 299: Sat Oct 26

No1 The Tarnished Angels (Sirk, 1957): Tate Modern, 3pm

The screening of this brilliant Douglas Sirk film is part of the Warren Sonbert season at Tate Modern.

Here is the Tate Modern introduction: Tarnished Angels, based on William Faulkner’s Pylon, is a Depression-era story set during the New Orleans Mardi Gras of the 1930s. Rock Hudson plays a reporter fascinated by the marginal lives of a fairground pilot and his wife, played by Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone. Shot in lush, sweeping black-and-white CinemaScope, the camera follows with fluid sweeps and pans the tragic plight of these passionate lost souls caught in a downward spiral of obsession jealousy, self-destruction and defeat. In 1975 Warren Sonbert described Sirk’s cinema as follows:
The fetid taste of intrinsic imperfection, of behavioural mistakes endlessly repeated from generation to generation, find expression in the staggeringly demonic visual motifs recurring throughout Sirk’s films of the merry-go-round, the amusement park ride, the circular treadmill, the vehicle that really goes nowhere, insulated hopeless activity, the Western frame of mind, people struggling to get outside cages of their own building yet encased by their own unique palpable qualities.
Sonbert was known not only for his films and opera reviews but he was also a noted film critic. His writings about feature films are amongst his more extraordinarily profound and insightful creations. In them, he expressed admiration for a pantheon of American directors working within the studio system, including Alfred Hitchcock, Nicholas Ray, and notably Douglas Sirk who appears in Sonbert’s film Noblesse Oblige (1981). He deeply admired Sirk’s ability to expose the ‘hollow cupidity and superficiality of middle class ideals’ and to accentuate the forces of destruction rent upon the nuclear family structure of the 1950s.


No 2 Vampyr (Dreyer, 1932): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 4.15pm

This film is screening as part of the BFI Gothic seaaon and is also being shown on October 31st. Details here.

Chicago Reader review:
'The greatness of Carl Dreyer's first sound film (1932, 83 min.) derives partly from its handling of the vampire theme in terms of sexuality and eroticism and partly from its highly distinctive, dreamy look, but it also has something to do with Dreyer's radical recasting of narrative form. Synopsizing the film not only betrays but misrepresents it: while never less than mesmerizing, it confounds conventions for establishing point of view and continuity, inventing a narrative language all its own. Some of the moods and images conveyed by this language are truly uncanny: the long voyage of a coffin, from the apparent viewpoint of the corpse inside; a dance of ghostly shadows inside a barn; a female vampire's expression of carnal desire for her fragile sister; an evil doctor's mysterious death by suffocation in a flour mill; a protracted dream sequence that manages to dovetail eerily into the narrative proper. The remarkable soundtrack, created entirely in a studio (in contrast to the images, which were all filmed on location), is an essential part of the film's voluptuous and haunting otherworldliness. (Vampyr was originally released by Dreyer in four separate versions—French, English, German, and Danish; most circulating prints now contain portions of two or three of these versions, although the dialogue is pretty sparse.) If you've never seen a Carl Dreyer film and wonder why many critics, myself included, regard him as possibly the greatest of all filmmakers, this chilling horror fantasy is the perfect place to begin to understand.'
Jonathan Rosenbaum 

Here (and above) is an extract.

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